U.S. inflation rose 0.3% in December

U.S. ‘headline’ inflation – formally known as the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers – rose 0.3% in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning.

The number – higher than in recent months – matched the consensus estimate and was triggered by higher costs for energy, apparel and shelter. Over the last 12 months, headline inflation increased 1.5%. Read the full BLS report.

Holders of TIPS and I Bonds are more interested in the non-seasonally adjusted CPI-U, which is used to determine principal adjustments on TIPS and future inflation-adjusted interest rates on I Bonds. Non-seasonally adjusted CPI-U was unchanged in December, and up 1.5% over the last 12 months.

The gasoline index rose 3.1%, and the fuel oil and electricity indexes also increased, resulting in a hefty 2.1% increase in the energy index. (Energy prices had fallen in October and November.) Apparel was up 0.9% and the shelter index rose 0.2% in December. Food was up a tame 0.1%.

Several factors helped to hold down inflation, such as a decline of 0.8% in medical care commodities and a drop of 0.2% for used cars and trucks.

Core inflation – which strips out energy and food – was up 0.1% in December and 1.7% for the last 12 months.

2012-13, years of weak inflation. The BLS reported: “CPI rose 1.5 percent in 2013 after a 1.7 percent increase in 2012. This is lower than the 2.4 percent average annual increase over the last ten years. This is the first time the CPI has gone up less than 2.0 percent for consecutive years since 1997-98.”

Here is the trend in headline inflation over the last year:

2013 inflation

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